Chinese authorities urged to free activist Liu Xiaobo

The Chinese authorities must immediately release a human rights activist whose appeal against an 11 year prison sentence was rejected by a Beijing court, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court on Thursday upheld Liu Xiaobo’s prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu Xiaobo, a well-known scholar and advocate of political and legal reform in China, was given an 11 year prison sentence on 25 December 2009 simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

“By upholding the verdict the court missed an opportunity to right the wrong. His harsh sentence is a stark reminder to the Chinese people and the world that there is still no freedom of expression or independent judiciary in China,” said Roseann Rife, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific programme.  

Several Beijing activists were placed under surveillance beginning Wednesday night or early Thursday morning and prevented from attending the sentencing. Liu Xiaobo’s wife was allowed into the court room.

“The case is the third this week which has seen the authorities crack down on activists. The message is clear, if you criticize the system outside the parameters set by the authorities or independently try to organize civil society, you will be stopped.” said Roseann Rife.  

On Monday, Huang Qi’s appeal against a three year prison sentence was dismissed, while Tan Zuoren was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday.

Both are human rights activists who have called for accountability for the deaths of children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the military crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing.

Liu Xiaobo co-authored Charter 08, a proposal for political and legal reform in China. The police took Liu Xiaobo from his home in Beijing on 8 December 2008, two days before the planned launch of Charter 08. Numerous signatories of the charter have been questioned and harassed by Chinese authorities since its launch but no one but Liu Xiaobo has been charged or tried.

Nobel Peace Price Laureates Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama, alongside many others, have supported the nomination of Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Price. Vaclav Havel co-wrote Charter 77, a document calling for respect of human rights in 1977 in Czechoslovakia on which the Charter 08 was modelled.

Several other signatories of Charter 08 have asked to share the responsibility with Liu Xiaobo and a group of senior Communist Party members including Hu Jiwei and Sha Yexin issued a letter to President Hu Jiantao questioning the legal grounds for Liu Xiaobo’s sentence.